MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

5 movies you must see (again) with a new lens – #3. CARS

Note: You may want to read my intro on this topic first.  

Disney Pixar films are generally enjoyable, excellent, and… ethereal (I needed to keep on with the alliteration).  That being said, I think “Cars” is one of the more underrated of the Pixar collection, probably because it it is not only an animated feature (which almost always brings the “maturity” and credibility factor down in adult’s eyes) but also it is a movie about talking cars… how very unrealistic!  So imagine my surprise when this movie jacked me up as I watched it on one of my international flights.  I almost needed to break down in my seat but I have this commitment to never cry in movies which I have kept except on a couple occasions, but I’ll share more on that later.  This movie has so many great lessons and easily overlooked principles, it puts Mr. Miyagi to shame!

what you may have liked about it: At best you probably thought this movie was “cute” or entertaining.  You probably enjoyed the Owen Wilson lead voice-over, and if you have a souped-up rice rocket (a.k.a. fixed-up Asian car) or mustang, you probably appreciated the fact these cars could talk as well.  If you’re an indiscriminating kind of person, you probably like all Pixar movies no matter what.

why you may NOT have liked it: 1) You actually hate Owen Wilson and hearing his voice the entire movie made you sick, 2) anything that is not human but has the ability to talk is either absurd or really scary to you, 3) you hate cartoons and anything animated because the last time you gave one a try, you watched “Beavis and Butthead Do America” which I haven’t seen but I assume was horrid.  

what you may have missed: there is the semi-obvious lesson of “don’t be a lone-ranger, be a team player” that we learn through Lightning McQueen’s quick rise, demise and resurgence in the movie.  However, did you catch the subtle messages that might as well have been from the pages of Scripture?  Lightning McQueen literally spends time in the desert, and it is in this place of isolation and desolation that he finds a new outlook on life and mission.  His arrogance is turned into humility as he labors and toils to repair a small town he accidentally destroys and nearly misses the big race that he was supposed to race in and win.  In the mean time, Lightning ends up meeting some great friends and realizes that he may have to redefine what success truly is.  Is it all about winning the big trophy and getting the big endorsements?  Is that all there is to life?  

key scene:  There is a scene at the end that really gets to me that I’m also a bit “proud” (ironic and discrediting, I know) of for noticing but it’s when Lightning finally makes it to the big race with the help of his new friends and he is about to win the race.  He is in the lead when the former champ, King, is bumped off the race track by the villain and is instantly wiped out of contention.  Lightning flashes back to the lessons he learned back in the desert with his new friends: the fleeting nature of fame and fortune, the value of friendships, the need to redefine success, and the dangers of pride and living merely for oneself.  It is in that moment that Lightning decides to slam on his brakes, inches from the finish line, to go back and help the former champ cross the finish line by pushing him forward.  The villain crosses the finish line and expects all the fanfare and endorsements but he is baffled when all eyes are not him.  Instead, the entire stadium is awestruck and baffled by what is unfolding before them– a selfless act of one car (man) helping out another in need, at the expense of the championship crown and ensuing endorsements that would follow.  It is a crazy scene and one that will get away from you if you don’t think about it some more.  I’m not done… make sure you read on to my final thoughts because that is when this all makes sense even more!  But first…

verses that come to mind: 

1 Peter 5:5
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”


Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.


final thoughts:  The scene I describe above is significant because of one detail that is easy to overlook.  For me, the fact that the former champ’s name was “King” jacks me up.  Whether or not it was their intention, Pixar reminded me why I was put on this earth.  I’m not here for my own gain and notoriety but it is for the sake of my King.  He redefined success and failure for me on the Cross and continues to do that as I learn more about who He is and what He cares about.  When Lightning McQueen forgoes the finish line to go back and push King forward, it was his way of saying that his life is now about the cause of the King.  No longer will he live for himself and for the things that he once considered so priceless and worthy of all-out devotion.  Success is not always about winning or crossing the finish line while leaving others in the dust.  Success is found in our ability to love and receive love.  Success is measured by how much a heart changes for the sake of others.  In typical poetic fashion, Pixar decides to end the movie by having Lightning McQueen receive the endorsements and fame anyway– what grace.  Wow.  

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